Goblin Market is selling more than just fruit

The first read of ‘Goblin Market’ by Christina Rossetti brought up many themes of women’s sexuality and sexual pressures from men. Sex in this case is represented by the fruit being handed to two sisters by goblins. In the beginning of the poem these fruits are described as “full and fine” and “sweet to tongue and sound to eye” but even with very positive descriptions the sisters reject the fruit because “their evil gifts will harm [them]”. This forbiddingness’ of an object that is being described as such a luxury makes it of higher value and is more of a mystery. The tone also switches within the poem from these angelic words to more aggressive adjectives like “crowing” and “snarling”. This switch in language is indicative of the change in mood of the goblins as well. In the beginning they were asking the girls if they wanted fruit but as the poem progressed the choice of taking the fruit was abandoned and the fruit was forced upon them. This can be seen as peer pressures and a rape if you view the poem with the point of view of fruit being sex.

A poem with themes of male manipulation and vulnerable women makes sense being published during the Victorian era because of the role of women during this period. Women have little rights and were often seen only to please men. Writing a poem from the side of the women without being direct could be seen as a sign of activism toward women’s rights at the time.

In a broader sense I believe this poem is a great description of power and addiction overall and doesn’t fall only under the category of being about sexual acts. The fruits can be viewed as anything society views as taboo. An example of this would be drugs. In this context it is something that with peer pressure people give into even if they know it is bad for them in the long run. Humans do things even though we shouldn’t and this will continue on forever.

2 thoughts on “Goblin Market is selling more than just fruit”

  1. I think that this is a very interesting point because the fruit is absolutely a direct metaphor for sex, and the goblins are definitely pressuring these women to have sex. Often, they have no choice when pressured by these men. Women were often seen as having to be subordinate to men; the fruit sometimes is a metaphor for a girl’s virginity and, therefore, innocence. Rosseti uses the supernatural and fantastical to show this. Jekyll and Hyde also use supernatural elements to illustrate the point.

  2. This post raises some very good points, and I agree with those points. I believe that even in the quotes from the beginning of the post where the fruit is first mentioned, you could even make the argument that these quotes are still being used to describe sex. Maybe not the exact action of sex but sexual things; for example, when I read it, I interpreted the “full and fine” part as the goblins having a boner. This, however, is just another example of sexuality being evident in Victorian literature.

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